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Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Playoffs Marcus Morris Sr. becomes leader

CLEVELAND – Marcus Morris Sr. wasn’t supposed to be. would be present at this moment. At least, that wasn’t the plan. But when the moment came, he pulled off the biggest win for the Cavaliers in years.

When the Cavs showed up at the arena before Tuesday’s Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, they weren’t sure if Morris would play at all.

A few hours later, the veteran hit one of the biggest shots of the night and played a crucial role in the Cavs’ 104-103 win, giving them a crucial 3-2 series lead.

Morris had not played a single second of meaningful basketball in the first four games of the playoffs, appearing only in garbage time in the Cavs’ losses in Games 3 and 4 in Orlando.

In fact, he reached the point where he wondered if he would even come off the bench at a time that mattered.

“It’s funny because the first four games I was like, ‘Damn, am I even going to be in the playoffs?’” Morris said after the Cavs’ win. “It was a little difficult. I haven’t played before. This was the first time I haven’t really touched the floor, so it was a little difficult just because I knew I could help in some way – physicality, being an experienced voice, whatever it was.”

Marcus Morris steps in for Jarrett Allen in Cavaliers’ Game 5 win over Orlando Magic

On Tuesday afternoon, Jarrett Allen went on the injured list with bruised ribs. It wasn’t clear the Cavs starting center would play until shortly before tipoff. Teammates were already in the arena before finding out Morris would be needed in Game 5 after being an afterthought in Games 1, 2, 3 and 4.

He then made a huge impact as the Cavs and Magic traded the lead back and forth all night. He finished with 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half alone. He also hit a key three-pointer to make it 90-90 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“It felt good. In the summer I worked my butt off for moments like this,” Morris said.

Morris has worked many summers and is now a 13-year veteran who has seen just about everything in the NBA. He has been a key part of the playoffs in one form or another since 2016 and has been a presence over the years.

Donovan Mitchell has been on the other end of Morris’ impact in the playoffs since his time with the Utah Jazz.

“This is a guy who has been ‘The Guy’ for the Knicks. He’s been a contributor for the Celtics. He’s been a role player for the Clippers,” Mitchell said of Morris’ extensive playoff history. “He hit me with that a few times in Utah. He hit me a few times with the Clippers. So it’s great to have that. And that’s why we brought him here.”

Marcus Morris joins the Cavs midseason and makes the 2024 NBA playoffs

The Cavs signed Morris to a 10-day contract after the Philadelphia 76ers waived him in February. They then signed him for the remainder of the season, and he became the embodiment of the type of physical play they were looking for.

He was the type of enforcer who added physicality to the necessary veteran presence. Morris, Tristan Thompson, Georges Niang and Max Strus have all contributed to a tougher mentality and playing style that wasn’t there a year ago.

He also saw how he could have the most impact on the Cavaliers’ locker room and help them achieve their playoff hopes.

“Honestly, just by leading,” Morris said of what he believes has been his biggest impact. “I think there were times where it was kind of up and down, and they were fighting, and just being able to get guys in to just talk to each other. I think we missed that (in Games 3 and 4), just when things got a little bumpy we went in opposite directions.”

Some of Morris’ biggest moments before this season came against the Cavaliers, especially against LeBron James. Morris’ Celtics took the Cavaliers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018 before Cleveland ultimately put them away.

“I remember playing well,” Morris said. “I was up and down with King. It was fun, man. I was one of those times where I was first in the playoffs, so I always enjoyed those moments.”

This year, one of those moments had Morris waiting until Game 5. But he was ready, becoming one of the unlikely heroes who put the Cavaliers on the cusp of winning their first playoff series without James on the roster. in three decades.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Threads at @ByRyanLewis.